1 "Well, Mr. Gore, Here He Is" No son of Albert Gore's was going to enter the world quietly. Humility had never come easily to Gore, and underneath his hill country populism lay a touch of the aristocrat. The male heir he had longed for, all nine pounds and two ounces, arrived at Columbia Hospital for Women in Washington on March 31, 1948. The Gores had ten- year-old Nancy, but waiting a decade for a second child had been difficult for the couple, especially Pauline. Having little Albert Arnold, when she was thirty-six, "has always been kind of a miracle to us," she said. And miracles, Albert Gore believed, merited more than passing mention.
Gore had noticed several months earlier that when a daughter was born to Representative Estes Kefauver, his principal rival in Tennessee politics, the story appeared on the inside pages of the Nashville Tennessean. He set to work and eventually extracted a promise from the paper's editors. With their help, he would both hail the arrival of his son and one-up Kefauver, who was on his way to the Senate seat that Gore coveted. "If I have a boy baby, I don't want the news buried inside the paper," said the five-term congressman. "I want it on page 1 where it belongs." The Tennessean complied with a one-column headline in its April 1 editions, wedged in the left-hand corner between civil war in Costa Rica and a Japanese train wreck. "Well, Mr. Gore, Here HE Is - On Page 1." Before he was home from the hospital, Al Gore had won a news cycle for his father.
The only known postpartum complication was what Pauline called the "battle royal" over their son's name. She favored the traditional "Junior" added onto "Albert Gore," but her husband thought it would be a burden to the young man. "He was adamant about it," Pauline said. So, like congressional conferees, they cut a deal: he would be Albert (called "Little Al" as a child) but could decide for himself later whether he was comfortable with "Jr." When the time came, Gore struggled with the choice. He was Junior and then he wasn't; he adopted it as a teenager, then in 1987, as a thirty-nine- year-old presidential candidate anxious to deflect attention from his youth, jettisoned juniorhood for good.
Survivors of punishing climbs from poverty, Albert and Pauline Gore endowed their son with a granite self-confidence about what was possible, and expected, in life. As full political partners decades before Bill and Hillary Clinton came to Washington, they made politics the family business. The single-minded drive that propelled Al Gore to the House of Representatives at twenty-eight and the Senate at thirty-six - and the hubris that made him a presidential candidate before he was forty - is their bequest. From Albert came a crusader's passion for public service, a globalist's view of issues, and a moralist's disdain for opposing points of view. Just as visible is Pauline's pragmatism, caution, and steely competitive edge. "I think the biggest influence you have on your child is the life you live day after day," she said. Any understanding of Al Gore begins with Albert and Pauline.
Allen Gore, Albert's father, was descended from the Scots-Irish who came to Virginia in the early seventeenth century and moved to Tennessee after the Revolutionary War, where they farmed the rugged slopes of the Cumberland River Valley. Albert, the third of five children he had with Maggie Denney Gore, was born near Granville, Tennessee, the day after Christmas 1907. When his son was two, Allen packed the family in a buggy and two wagons and moved to a 186-acre farm in Possum Hollow, a Smith County community where the poverty and desolation was echoed in the names that surrounded it on the map - Difficult, Defeated, Nameless. They were poor but well fed, producing their own chickens, eggs, and milk and selling the surplus for cash. "We lived apart from the world," Albert Gore wrote in his 1970 memoir, "relatively isolated and therefore dependent entirely on one another." The unforgiving environment fostered a hard-edged independence and wariness of outsiders among those who coaxed a living from the land, and it left young Albert with firm, often inflexible, beliefs about right and wrong. His father's discipline was absolute and his authority unquestioned. He rose at 4:00 a.m. every day of the year and tasked Albert to get up with him and build a fire. Despite the heavy workload, Allen Gore kept up with the world outside Possum Hollow and encouraged his children to set their sights on it. In the evenings he read the newspaper with a kerosene lamp and talked about the politicians he admired, including William Jennings Bryan, "the Great Commoner" whose populism and antii-imperialism made a lasting impression on Albert, and Cordell Hull, a boyhood friend who served in the House and Senate and as Franklin Roosevelt'''''s secretary of State. Later, as a young aspiring politician, Albert spent Sunday afternoons listening to Hull talk about Washington as he sat in the shade with the whittlers on the courthouse square in Carthage. He became a mentor for Gore, who adopted Hull's advocacy of free trade and progressive taxation as cornerstones of his own politics when he was elected to the House.
Albert's political ambitions were sparked as a grade- schooler, when he saw the picture of a cousin, running for the state legislature, tacked to utility poles and roadside trees. "In my childish imagination I was fascinated by the prospect of seeing my own picture there someday," he wrote. As a teenager, Gore was a good enough fiddler to sit in at square dances and briefly flirted with a musical career, but he soon targeted law school as his platform into public life. It was a struggle to get there. He scraped his way through the University of Tennessee and Murfreesboro Teachers College, never able to afford more than a semester at a time. To put together funds he drove a truck, waited tables, and taught in a one- room schoolhouse in the Cumberland Mountain community of High Land, known more widely as "Booze" for its robust moonshine commerce.
At eighteen, Gore was handsome in a stalwart, square-jawed way, with waves of curly brown hair and a reputation as one of the area's most enthusiastic bachelors. "Listen," said one former Smith County schoolteacher, "every girl in this county dated Albert Gore before he went to law school." Gore also discovered early that he enjoyed being the center of attention. A classmate at Murfreesboro recalled his performance as a young lieutenant in a student production of the war drama Journey's End, a play that required him to die in the final scene. "Albert died beautifully," his friend recalled. "But as the curtain started closing, he reached out from his deathbed, held back the curtain, and died a little more. Albert always did like the limelight." It took him seven years to work through college. After graduating in 1932, he moved to Carthage, the Smith County seat, where he made his first try for public office as superintendent of schools a year later. He lost both the election and his teaching job and returned to his father's farm at the age of twenty-six. Not long before, in the late 1920s, Allen Gore had grown uneasy about the soundness of the banks and spread his life savings of $8,000 among several institutions. Within a few days, the banks had failed. When Albert came home, his family was still better off than many of their neighbors - at least the mortgage was paid - but the Depression's devastation left an indelible mark on him. At market, as he saw "men with wives and children whom they could neither feed nor clothe well and whose farms were not paid for, I recognized the face of poverty: grown men who were so desperate the tears streamed down their cheeks as they stood with me at the window to receive their ...